Poster Size: 20 x 24 inches
Below the Line: Living Poor in America, published in 1987, is a collection of 14 photographic and textual essays that depict conditions of poverty within the United States during the mid 1980s. The book was controversial. Critics applauded the revealing nature of the stories, but often added, as if in the same breath, that what was being shown was a negative view of the country, one that lacked hope. Pushed to reply, Richards countered that these stories were, in fact, portraits in courage. Each person encountered on his journey across America was struggling, against great odds, to better him or herself.
Published by Consumer Reports Books, Below the Line consisted of taped interviews and photographs made by Richards during a seven-month journey across America visiting poor rural and urban communities in eleven states from Massachusetts to Wyoming. Richards writes: "As one person's history unfolded, I was often directed towards others. When I was with embattled farmers in South Dakota, I was moved to think of the migrant laborers who also worked the land, yet have no title to it. The family I visited in the Tennessee Mountains was barely hanging onto their ancestral homeland. How must it be, then, for people newly arrived in this country that must adapt to a new language, different customs, to an inhospitable economy? In the Arkansas Delta, the grandchildren of the aging and weary sharecroppers could barely wait to get away from home, to Chicago or New York, which held more promise for them..."